I'm looking to purchase my first alarm system and would welcome any advice you professionals might have WRT selecting a good company and assuring that I'll end up with quality components, service, and installation.
Due to the odd structure of the townhouse, it may be quite challenging to fish wires to the doors and windows, so I'm expecting a wireless solution will be talked about. In addition to the main entrance which is a wood framed metal skinned door, I've got a metal sliding glass door and vinyl windows. I'm thinking fire protection. There really isn't a good place to mount a large panel, so something on the small side would be good. I've got a tiny dog. If based on such a simple description of the environment there would be certain brands or types of solutions I'd want to hear mentioned or not hear mentioned I'd appreciate you pointing them out.
Lastly, if there is anything I should do to assure that I'll have some flexibility down the road... for example, the ability to use the same equipment with a different monitoring company or run it stand alone or whatever... I'd like to know.
Sir, you have just asked the million dollar question. Pretty much everyone here sells security services, so the answers will be as varied as the participants. And there is a great deal of differences of opinion versus this subject. So having said that, I will give you my thoughts on the matter. However, no matter what anyone tells you (me included), make the best decision for your particular situation.
1- The first decision you have to make is not who you want to deal with, but how you want to buy your system....low up front price, high monthly rates with a long term contract on one extreme, and full but fair market price up front and low ongoing monthly, sometimes with no long term committment at the other extreme. And the very many different pricing versions somewhere in the middle. However, do keep in mind that long term contracts do nothing for you the consumer; they are in place to guarantee the alarm company it's revenue stream, and often to pay for the system itself.
2- On such a small ticket item, it is usually best to purchase outright rather than lease.
3- Generally speaking, it's best to avoid wireless equipment if it is possible to install hardwired gear. In this writer's opinion, wireless should only be used as a last resort if it isn't possible to economically run wires. Wireless will require more maintenance over the years.
4- Get three written quotes and figure your REAL price as the total over five years, of up front cost, monthly times 60, and the greatly varying costs of warranty and service on your hardware. Then go with the company you feel most comfortable with, small or large. Remember, you will likely be with this company for some years to come !
5- NEVER forget the simple, low cost "physical" part of your home security..locks, front door strike, patio door security bar and some form of physical barrier on low lying basement window. It makes little sense to electronically protect your home, and warn "after the fact", if you haven't done the simplest of things to help keep them out to start with. Remember, your true security is not one single thing; it's the cumulative effect of everything you do.
6- Ensure up front that you don't buy equipment which is proprietary ie: can only be used to report back to one particular company. At some point in the future, you may decide to shop elsewhere for your monitoring services, and this will allow you to do so. And if you decide to sell your home, an alarm system with no legal or proprietary encumberances will add some additional albeit minor value to the home.
There are many other suggestions that others will post as well. However, if you wish to do some reading, my website has far too much wordy information about all aspects of the alarm business, some of which might assist you in becoming a better informed consumer before you purchase.
Some "big" alarm companies can be bigger crooks than the crooks they are protecting you from! Beware!
You can get monitoring here for $8.95 a month for example...
Read *everything* in any contract they want you to sign. You can be stick with an expensive monitoring contact for years which has automatic renewal.
You can be stick with a system where they only have the key to the box, they have the installation/programming codes, and they will disable it if you cancel your contract.
I would get a system where you have the key to the box, you have the installation programming codes, you have the programming instructions, and you can program it yourself. Also where you can select which company will monitor your alarm and switch to another monitoring company as you wish.
Don't go by what the salesman tells you. Go by what is written in the contract. Read it - every line. Might be better to have no contract, buy your own equipment on the internet, and have an off-duty alarm company employee do the installation for you. Or insist they install everything and you pick your own monitoring company. Smaller companies are better if you ask me.
Just as long as he makes sure that the company from whom he purchases equipment from online has a reputation for good support and are technically competent to help. Finding someone local, for instance, would be infinitely better than trying to deal with a company that's "clear across the country" and "drop ships" product they neither install or service.
Some of these discount monitoring stations do a good job. However, the only consumers that would want to take advantage of these kinds or services are those who are competent enough to service their own systems ie: competent DIY' ers who installed their own system and know it well. Otherwise, if you do need service on your panel through one of these discount houses, it MAY be available through a third party dealer in your area, and it WILL be very expensive. These stations are basically"cream skimming" the market place with no interest in service, but when (not if) you do require service, I guarantee things won't look quite so rosy.....
However, this gentleman said he is in the process of shopping for an alarm system. If like 99.9% of consumers, he would rather have a professional do it (so he can get on with more important things in his life), then the above sort of monitoring station is definately not applicable for him.
Some of the other comments you make about the ills of our industry have validity; however, it is both inaccurate and unfair to tarnish everyone with the same brush. Most companies provide good service and do so gladly. Service is what keeps them alive in this industry as it is in most others. However, it always wise to read and understand any sort of contractual arrangement before you sign it.....the old saying 'let the buyer beware" does apply here when it comes to alarm contracts !!
In general I prefer to keep contracts on the short side... a year in length, ocassionally I'll go monthly until I develop a warm fuzzy. With alarms, are monitoring contracts usually unrelated to hardware warranty/support length or are they tied together?
I'd prefer hardwired, but we'll see. The main, seemingly impossible position to wire without damaging the walls (which we don't want for now... could change things down the road prior to a repainting) would be the main entrance. So maybe we'll just end up with one wireless keypad until the next remodeling (shrug).
This being a dense neighborhood I would expect there to be a fair amount of gear operating in the 900 MHz, 2.4GHz, and 5GHz bands. Are wireless alarm components pretty robust and interference free?
Yes, avoiding lock-in and maximizing the control I'd have over the system are high-priorities. I don't have the time to become very knowledgeable on the different systems, and I don't want to micromanage the alarm company and every component they pick and how they install it, but if there is anything anyone could share that could help me to differentiate a "good equipment" proposal from a "poor equipment" proposal I'd welcome it.
RHC: If you look closely within the ranks of the smaller companies, you may find one that offers month to month contract terms. This leaves you in the driver's seat and allows you to change suppliers if their service slips, or if their pricing becomes unreasonable over time. A one year term is reasonable; anything more is excessive (unless you are paying down artificially low system costs). Warranty and service costs may or may not be included; it depends upon the company. Many tack on a couple of bucks a month extra for a limited warranty and service costs. Others include it in their monthly rate. Prices are all over the map ! It is also important to find out exactly what is covered and what is not ! And ask about their hourly and driving charges. Better to find out up front exactly what they charge than be hit with a large expense a couple of years down the line.
RHC: If the basement ceiling is open, there is NO reason why the complete system cannot be put in hardwired. It will give you a far better and more reliable system over the longer term. Don't second guess a good installer; it's amazing where they can get wires and hide things completely from sight !!
RHC: Yes, generally speaking, wireless from the major suppliers is good stuff. I use it sparingly because on a couple of occasions, I have seen ham radio systems make the use of wireless totally unusable...false alarms like crazy. Some companies swear by it, but I give it as wide a berth as I can. If you do go wireless, make sure it is "supervised" wireless so the station knows when it is non functional or batteries have gone bad.
RHC: I'm not sure the answer to that is a simple one. Avoid high pressure sales types....you know, the ones that say the deal is only good for now and will go up soon. Also, make sure that the system coverage is adequate...two doors and a motion won't cut it in most cases, and that you compare "apples to apples" when comparing quotes. You'll find that many companies will offer quite a few different proposals when it comes to coverage and options. Generally, as a minimum, all doors should be armed, all basement and low lying windows should be armed, and there should be an adequate number of quality motions to give generalized coverage of the major areas of the home. A smoke detector is worth adding to the system and may entitle you to additional discounts on your home insurance policy.
Never go with a company that boosts the monitoring rate for add ons like smokes etc. They are just boosting your monthly rate, and it's a pretty good indication of the type of company you will end up dealing with (it doesn't cost them any more to monitor six hundred "points" than it does six !! )
If you have any more questions while getting your quotes, let us know....
This all depends on how you buy your system. The traditional way is for you to buy your system outright, for a price in the thousands, depending on your home. The system comes with a warranty, which is often one year, parts and labor. The monitoring is sold as a separate contract, typically for one year, although this can vary. After the warranty expires, you pay for service on a time and materials basis.
Since many consumers have difficulty coming up with that kind of cash, some companies use multi-year contracts to make it less painful. Some companies use this as a time-purchase arrangement, while others (like Brink's) never really sell the equipment; they only provide a service. Still other companies use proprietary equipment, which may not be usable by other alarm companies even though the customer technically owns it. Some of these companies actually do sell you the equipment after you pay the minimal installation charge, even though you remain obligated to pay the monthly fee for the next several years. One of the other tricks these companies use is to give a very short warranty, such as 90 days, and then offer you the opportunity to pay an additional monthly fee to extend the warranty coverage. Like most extended warranties, this is rarely a good deal, even though you will get raped for service calls if you choose not to buy the extended warranty. A good residential system requires minimal service.
Common sense should tell you that an alarm company that is charging you, say, $500 to install the system is probably losing money initially, and will need a long-term contract to make sure you eventually pay them enough money to turn a profit. Consequently, you cannot cancel whenever you want.
So, this all comes down to your ability to pay, and understanding that different alarm companies will offer you different bundles of services, for different terms, at different rates.
My advice is that you avoid the bigger companies, and look for a smaller company that has been around for a while. The bigger the company, the less technically knowledgeable the person who comes out to sign you up. And, the less interest they will have in you as a customer. If you are fortunate, you will find a guy who can answer your questions about hiding wire, instead of just telling you that you need wireless. Cookie-cutter solutions only work well if you happen to be a cookie.
You wrote "and I don't want to micromanage the alarm company and every component they pick and how they install it, but if there is anything anyone could share that could help me to differentiate a "good equipment" proposal from a "poor equipment" proposal I'd welcome it." There is good equipment that is put in a bad application and vice versa. Even within a fairly good brand name there are some turkeys. If a manufacturer has a large presence in the low end high volume like DSC, sometimes their reach into the high end can be less than spectacular and vice versa. Examples of that might include DSC 1832 versus DSC 4020 and the bottom end and Bosch G Series versus Bosch 4412 at the top end. In my experience the best wireless has been from Inovonics.
It can work directly with many high end panels like Bosch or DMP. Despite some recent issues that have been resolved for the most part the G series panel form Bosch
is a good high end panel. Some folks here might not like them because they are not available through normal alarm distribution channels. There is both good and bad to that. My opinion of the price/quality spectrum of common brand alarm panels your are likely to receive proposals on: DSC, mostly low end (The new 433 wireless not built by DSC is much better than the old 900 which was pure land fill.) [A distribution product] Honeywell (Ademco), Mostly Low to Some Medium (Wireless is okay, not great - not terrible) [A distribution product] Napco, Some Low to Mostly Medium (but the worst wireless after DSC 900) [A distribution product & Direct to Dealer] Bosch, Mostly High End (G Series) - but stay far away from their low end (6412-4412-2212 & Easy Series) (Their Inovonics Wireless is great. Their ITI Wireless is okay) [Direct to Dealer only] DMP, Mostly High End - but off in a world of its own. (Supports Inovonics Wireless). Not many dealers know or support it (including me). I usually pull it out when I find it. It has some really unique features if you're into high tech gadgetry. [Direct to Dealer only] Hope this helps.
"David" wrote in message news:x4WdnQ_b7YrQg9DYnZ2dnUVZ email@example.com...
That is not 100% correct Robert. It often allows a customer to get an alarm system now instead of later. Just like financing allows us to buy new service trucks without having to scrimp and save to put aside 20-40 thousand in cash before making the purchase. Yes it is used by many alarm companies as a way to guarantee their revenue stream, but if it did not also benefit many consumers in allowing them to afford an alarm system quickly it probably would not be as popular. We are all aware of course of all the abuses of this system as well.
There are a couple problems with the model also. The biggest is that people will refuse to understand why that can't get a comprehensive alarm that takes a couple days to install for "free" like they can get the 3 doors and a motion lick and stick system usually marketed under the low or no down "free" system plans.
The other is that a lot people are not good to their word. They refuse to understand why they have to honor their contract.
Personally I dislike the whole free alarm program because people are in general opportunistic and selfish and its a high stress low return sales tactic. However, there is a legitimate reason for it to exist. You just have to find a company who will give you what you paid for (or didn't pay for as the case may be. LOL), and you have to be understand that if you don't honor your word they will come after you for being a welsher.
True, it is possible to buy minimal protection by paying an exhorbitant monthly monitoring fee under a long-term, mandatory contract. However, these arrangements are usually only offered to people whose credit rating is high enough that they could also obtain more traditional (and almost invariably less expensive) financing through their bank or credit union. Exercising that option, the consumer may also be able to obtain a more comprehensive system.
I don't know about that Robert. Add in labor and overhead and parts and the extra ten dollars a month for a typical 3 year contract does not cover the installation. Its still a gamble for any real profitability. Basically if companies had every customer cancel after the contract minimum they would still lose money. They have to gamble that a large percentage of them will continue to pay for the service much longer, plus they have to cover all those people who refuse to honor their word. Trust me I have hacked my way through the numbers several different ways and I am sure you have as well.
The simple fact of the water is most of use would not provide monitoring at less than around 20-25 a month on a monthly basis or less than 17-19 if prepaid annually, and we get it with no real qualms from our customers. So if we sell "free" systems for another $10 per month on a three year contract we have to cover the expense of the system, labor and overhead for $360 dollars.
The advantage to your arguement of course is that if the customer finances the system themselves they can often get the more comprehensive system that is almost never offered as part of a zero down deal. There is also the value of their time. If they put it on a credit card the interest is exorbitant, and if they arrange seperate financing then they have to spend a great deal of their time arranging it. Time during which the customer who falls in this category could easily have made more money at their job than they saved by arranging their own financing. There are of course all kinds of exceptions. Thos who have a standing line of credit our a pre-existing home equity line of credit, and those who can simpley pay cash.
Anyway, whether we like it or not it is a valid marketing model. I personally do not like it, and I readily recognize the FACT that it is often abused, but its a valid plan and there are good arguements for it to exist.
The comments in the below post regarding the various brands and their quality, usefulness, and position in ranking, is at the least, speculative, subjective and ultimately, simply only the opinion of one person.
I'm not speaking about profitability. My comments only regard whether these "free" system sales are a good deal for the consumer. Many times they are not.
I'm not certain what you mean by that.
That depends on the consumer's situation. Most folks can get a consumer loan in
24 hours with a simple, 1-page application at their regular bank. My bank even offers near-instant loan processing and approval online via their website. The whole application process takes less time than it does to throw an "authorized dealer" out the door. :^)
Hmm. Let's suppose that the consumer takes the typical "free" system for $99 (usual mandatory charge to install the $2 RJ31X jack). He wants more protection so he has the dealer add two extra motions and three doors. They charge him $185 each for the PIRs and $70 apiece for the doors. These are typical of prices customers have cited in questions here.
He also wants fire protection. Four smokes are installed at $155 apiece. Now his up-front cost is roughly $1,400 and he gets to pay $45 a month for 36 to 60 months, automatically renewable in 1, 2 or 3-year increments (the price never drops unless he threatens to go elsewhere).
If he stays only the minimum $36 months (some companies now insist on as long as 60 months), he pays a total of $3,020. If ADT exercises the right to raise the rates annually as spelled out in their contract and as they have done in the past, he actually ends up paying significantly more.
Now instead suppose he decides to buy the system outright. Our example has a panel, keypad, inside siren, 3 PIRs and 5 doors. Many independent dealers would install such a system for around $1800. Obviously this varies by region, but it's a fair median. The alarm company charges $20 a month for monitoring. Over 36 months that's $720. With the system purchase his total outlay is $2,120.
Here's the zinger in all of this. Remember the free system? It actually cost the guy $1,400 cash up front PLUS the over-priced monitoring fees. If he paid for it up front he would have spend only $400 more at the time. What he's actually "financing" is $400 at a monthly cost of $25 for a period of 36 to as much as 60 months depending on whose "authorized dealer" program he chose.
That amounts to paying between $900 and $1,500 to finance $400. Oh, and what about that time he would have to spend arranging financing? Remember the initial $1,400 he wound up paying for the "free" system? He probably went to the bank to borrow most of that, too, unless he just handed them his credit card -- in which case he's also paying 18% a year on the initial purchase.
Don't misunderstand me on this, Crash. I'm not debating the profitability or the merits of the "free" system deal from the alarm company's viewpoint. I'm only saying that from a consumer's position these are almost always a bad deal.
Let's look at another possible scenario. Say I decide to have the local authorized dealer install a "free" system in my home in Sarasota (there, I said it; now Cracker doesn't need to run a DNS on my headers to figure it out :^)). I go for the minimum protection that they offer with these deals -- 2 doors and 1 motion detector.
I pay the $99 fee for the $2 RJ31X jack and then pay $40 (no fire) a month for
60 months. That's roughly $2500. I could have bought that same system for $600 installed and paid $20 a month, or $1800 total. I end up paying what amounts to $700 interest on a $600 "loan".
For comparison, I could have borrowed the $600 from my bank at 6.5% interest. Over 5 years that would cost me roughly $104 in interest payments. The "free" system costs me almost seven times as much interest as a simple consumer loan.
Suppose instead I "financed" the $600 purchase with a high interest Visa card at 18% a month. Interest on the $600 over 5 years would still be only $314 -- less than half the "interest" I would pay if I signed up for the "free" system.
Yep, but I prefer to reserve equity for more significant purchases. For example, I'm having my roof replaced at a cost of roughly $40,000. I just refinished the pool, spa and 2200 sf lanai... $28,000.
If I had hired an "authorized dealer" to do the work it would cost more for the "monitoring" than my mortgage. :^)
Well, it is a marketing model. How valid a model is a matter for the end user to decide.
I respectfully disagree. You are not the kind of guy to take advantage of your clients nor am I. We both have very different marketing models -- you cater to custom installed market and I sell to DIYers. Both are valid marketing models -- far better for the buyer than these so-called "free" system deals.
Bob, my comments were in relation to the fact that IF the client pays full price for the alarm and is still locked into a long term contract, then in fact the contract is doing nothing for him, and only benefits the alarmco. I'm amazed after so many years of explaining what I mean, that so many still take the meaning out of context. Long term contracts are quite valid if their purpose is to ensure that the client completes payment on his alarm system which has been artificially lowered at the front end. To do othewise would be foolish.
Let me take the example, where a client owns his system outright. Say he moved into a new home where the original alarm has been sold to the client; he owns it fully, and there is absolutely no financial committments that have not been met to the original installing company. My point is (and has always been) that signing this new client up to a long term committment does nothing for him. It does however, limit his freedom to move should the new company (me) give poor service; it does mean that should he experience the need to sell the home on short notice, that he is in to some serious negotiations with his alarmco where there is no need. In this respect, in these kinds of cases, the long term contract does nothing for the client, and is definately not in his best interests.
As far as the lick and stick alarms go, I agree with you that a lot of people have been brainwashed by the slick marketeers who peddle their minimalistic systems. However, I do think that if you explain things properly to people, they will see the sense in what you say. That doesn't mean they always want to pay that full price, and many will still go the "free" system route, but so what. Do you really want those clients anyway. I know I don't.Perhaps the environment where I work is different; however, I rarely get calls these days from anyone who doesn't expect to pay full price. One third of my client base work in the high tech industry, and make very good money. They almost without exception want to keep their monthly down, and maintain their flexibility, and paying me $600 to $1000 for a system installation doesn't phase them a bit. I do recognize that things can be quite different across both our countries, and I may just have found a niche that works well in my part of Canada, but which might not be valid elsewhere.
Anyway, that's all I wanted to point out....
Bob La Londe wrote: That is not 100% correct Robert. It often allows a customer to get an alarm